This week, I caught up with one of Sydney’s best networkers, Wendy Lloyd Curley, to talk about her experiences, and her soon-to-be-released book Stop Wasting Your Time Networking: The Ultimate Guide to Marketing Your Business Through Personal Connections.
Wendy loves helping others to understand how to grow a business by networking. So much so that in 2020, she started her new business, Strategic Networking. She was also happy to share some excellent networking tips and talk about the common mistakes people make that prevent them from developing a network that supports their business goals. Let’s dive in.
Why networking is valuable
For business owners, the typical goal of networking is to establish a network that results in referrals. But do we really understand just how valuable that type of network can be? Here’s some compelling data:
- According to a recent Nielson report, “Ninety-two percent of consumers around the world say they trust earned media, such as word-of-mouth or recommendations from friends and family, above all other forms of advertising.”
- 84% of B2B buyers begin the purchasing process with a referral.
- Several reports indicate that referred customers spend 15-25% more that non-referred customers.
- Referred customers are more likely to convert, and be more loyal.
To sum that up, referrals are easier to convert, more likely to be retained, and likely to spend more. So why do so many people say that networking doesn’t work for them? According to Wendy, when people first begin networking, they often begin without a strategy, and don’t go about it the right way.
Networking is not selling
By far the biggest rookie error is attending networking events in the expectation of making sales. The problem with that approach is that nobody goes to networking events to buy.
Instead, your goal should be to build a business network over a period of time, and to meet people who will be a good fit for your network. That might include some potential clients, but more importantly, it should include potential referral partners, people you can learn from, and people you can refer others to for help.
Take a strategic approach
Mistake number two: not being strategic. When your time is valuable, you don’t want to waste hours at a time attending events and speaking to people at random. Start by knowing who you want in your network, and then creating a plan to connect with those people.
Wendy pointed out that the Sydney Hills Business Chamber (SHBC) makes this very easy at in-person events by providing a list of attendees prior to the event, and then having ‘connectors’ there to facilitate introductions. “People should take advantage of that. Identify 1-3 people you’d most like to connect with and ask for those introductions.”
Wendy recommends keeping in mind that you want quality over quantity. It’s better to leave the event having met one person you can build a relationship with, than ten people you might never engage with again.
Whether online or off, Wendy said another frequent mistake is simply the failure to pay attention. At an in-person event, that means not actively listening to the person you’re speaking with. Perhaps you’re looking around the room to see who else you can talk to, or you’re busy thinking about what you’re going to say. Not only is that impolite, but it could be a mistake – because you don’t know who the person knows that you might like to be introduced to.
If you’re attending an online networking event, the temptation to multitask can be huge. But not actively listening or participating isn’t just a bad look – you’re essentially wasting your own time because you’re not really present.
Yet another way that you can waste your time networking is by failing to follow up with the people you do meet. Wendy says there can be many reasons we fail to get back in touch. Perhaps we’re a bit shy or worried that the person won’t be interested when we do follow up. Maybe we’re busy, or we simply forget. Whatever the reason, if we’re not going to nurture the connections we make, there’s not much point in networking at all.
Building a network of value requires a healthy commitment of time and effort. There’s more to getting it right than meets the eye.
There’s much more wisdom to be found in Wendy Lloyd Curley’s book. With the book launch date approaching, Wendy is offering special VIP bonuses and an exclusive low price on launch date to those who register on the pre-launch list. Register here.
Ready to network? Come along to the next SHBC online Business After 5 event on September 29. Event host and marketing strategist Tiz Porreca from Amongst Marketing will share some of her wisdom, to help you diagnose what’s wrong with your marketing. You can register for that event here.